BLOOMINGTON – What does molecular biology and genetics have to do with college basketball?
We're about to find out.
Indiana coach Tom Crean almost certainly entered uncharted territory by hiring Kenny Johnson as his latest assistant coach. Johnson has a biology degree from Maryland and a track record for developing basketball talent.
Plus, and this can't be overstated, he knew Crean.
That was enough to make Johnson's hiring official. He replaces Bennie Seltzer, who left to take over the Samford program. Calbert Cheaney, IU's director of basketball operations, passed on the position to keep his current job.
Johnson comes after one season as an assistant at Towson, which went 1-31 last season with a 22-game losing streak. However, it was his work with AAU power Team Takeover from the Washington, D.C., area, plus his success with three Virginia high schools.
“We have been very impressed by Kenny and have followed him for years,” Crean said in a university release. “He will bring a solid mix of personality, work ethic and toughness to our staff. I've always admired his ability to get the most out of the young men he's worked with. We're excited about his potential.”
Johnson spent six years as the vice president/assistant director of basketball operations for Team Takeover. The AAU program, based out of Washington D.C., produced 53 Division I scholarship players, including current Hoosiers Victor Oladipo and Maurice Creek.
He also spent four years as the associate head coach at Paul VI High School in Fairfax, Va., as well as the associate head coach at Eleanor Roosevelt High School and Dr. Henry Wise High School, both in Virginia.
“I've known Coach Crean for a long time,” Johnson said in the release. “What's most impressive and most easy to see is how family-oriented he and his staff are. I think that carries over to their relationships with their players. I take the responsibility of building on their success and doing things the right way very seriously.”
Johnson's relationship with Crean was a key point given the last time Crean hired an assistant coach he didn't know, Roshown McLeod, when he first came to IU, it didn't go well.
“Past experience plays into it,” Crean said before the hire. “I'm way past going the stranger route, going the recommendation route. I've not done well with not knowing a guy.”
Towson head coach Pat Skerry tweeted that Johnson “helped lay a strong foundation this year (for Towson) and will do great things at IU.”
Crean said a big key was fitting in with his veteran staff. Tim Buckley and Steve McClain have both been college head coaches.
“We've got great chemistry on this staff,” Crean said. “I have some great coaches. Last year was as good as I've ever been around. So fit is big. Compatibility. There are certain things we want and recruiting plays a part. Player development plays a huge part.
“Our staff is so strong any coach has to hold his own. You never walk in to a practice and see one or two coaches standing on the side and not being involved. If you coach here, you're involved. I'll never be able to work with a wallflower.”